Episode 70: All About Side B Christianity

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

I came to terms with my sexuality about 30 years ago when I was in my twenties. Because I was a Christian, I wanted to understand what it meant to be gay from a biblical perspective. One of the most formative books I read was Is the Homosexual My Neighbor by Virigina Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Dawson Scanzoni. It provided a theological understanding of being gay and it helped me understand that God accepted who I was as a gay man. That led me to ultimately find a good man that became my husband when we married in 2007.

When I looked at the scriptures that were used to prohibit same sexual relations, I came to see them as misinterpretations or laws that were no longer in force. But there are gay Christians who see themselves as gay but take the prohibitions against sex literally.

These people have a name: Side B Christians. Many of these people come from more traditional or conservative backgrounds. Side B Christians can be misunderstood by “Side A” Christians or gay Christians who are in same-sex relationships and are feared by straight people in conservative denominations. Today, I talk with a Side B Christian about his journey and the journey of compatriots. Wes Hill is the Assistant Priest at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA and an Associate Professor in New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI.

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Show Notes:

Side B Christians Like Me Are An Asset Not a Threat by Bekah Mason

What Comes After the Ex-Gay Movement? The Same Thing That Came Before. By Greg Johnson

Revoice and the Vocation of Yes by Wes Hill

Love, Again by Wes Hill

Beyond religious life and marriage: A look at friendship as vocation by Eve Tushnet

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Hello and welcome to en route journeys and faith in modern life. I am Dennis Sanders, your host. Welcome. This is the podcast where we explore the WHO, where, why, what and how of religion and word and it intersects with modern life. This is episode seventy. Well, is now been probably about thirty years ago that I was really kind of coming to terms with my sexuality. I was in my early s and I really wanted to try to understand my faith my sexuality through my faith. I was a Christian and actually came from an evangelical background and I needed to under understand what did it mean to be gay? Was it something that God approved of? I think that one of the most formative books that helped me on my journey was a book entitled is the homosexual my neighbor, by Virginia Ramy Molancott and Litha Dawson squizzone. That book provided a theological understanding of being gay and I think it really helped me to understand that God really accepted who I was as a gay man. I think that led me to ultimately really come out and accept myself and down the road to find a good man. That became my husband when we married in two thousand and seven now, when I looked at the scriptures, and you know those scriptures that are in the in the Bible that have been talked about to prohibit saying sexual relations, the common way that people that people like me would look at that is that they were misinterpretations or maybe that they were laws that were once had made sense, but we're no longer in force. But there are a group of Gay Christians who see themselves as gay, who accept themselves as gay, but they take the prohibitions against sex seriously or literally. These people have a name side be Christians. Many of these people come from more conservative or traditional back grounds, so I be Christians sometimes can be misunderstood from people like me, side a Christians, and they can also be feared by straight people in conservative denominations. Today I have the chance to talk to bayside be Christian about his own journey. What's Hill is the assistant priests at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh and he's also an associate professor in New Testament at Western theological seminary in Holland, Michigan. I hope that you will listen to this journey. If may not always, may not be thinking something that you will agree with, but I hope that this will be a discussion and under a way of understanding someone who is walking a different road. So let's hear from West. Well, Leslie, thank you for taking...

...the time to talk to me today. Well, Dennis, thank you for the invitation. It's an honor and I am looking forward to our conversation. All right. Well, the first thing I guess I would want to ask is what is side be? And I guess by that rhetoric I would probably consider myself, I guess, Side A. Hm. So what are the differences between the two? And where did the name come from? Yeah, great, great question. Yeah, so there has been a phenomenon of the past few years of Christians who are sort of conservative in their instincts. They want to be part of the church, they want to say the creed along with everyone else, they want to read scripture along with everyone else, and you know, many of us have had to do that while at the same time grappling with our sexual orientation, which is not straight. And for a long time in the circles that I grew up in, there was a very clear path for people like me. You know, I realized I was gay when I was probably, I don't know, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old, and the the quote unquote solution to that was to, you know, to get into therapy, to meet with someone who could cast out demons, someone who could, you know, deliver you from this experience of same sex desire, and that the whole kind of model was healing. You need to be healed from this, from this experience, and I think what happened, you know, probably around twenty years ago, is that more and more Christians wanted to be able to say, Hey, I'm gay and I'm a Christian. I don't want to not be gay, I don't expect that I'll not be gay, but I want the freedom to explore my convictions, particularly around marriage and sexual intimacy. And so they're developed this dialog with this organization that was called bridges across the divide, and they are the first one who develop this terminology of side a and side B, and it was a way of trying to say there are Christians who, you know, share the same faith in Christ, read the same scriptures, but come to different conclusions about the morality of sexual intimacy. And so side a said that if you're gay and Christian, you need to know that God is perfectly capable of blessing and sanctifying a same sex relationship for you, a committed, a marital, espousal relationship between two people the same sex. And the side be counterpart to that was God. God loves you precisely as you are if you are gay, and you know, if you find yourself with that orientation and and also embracing Christian faith, but that God asks that your sexual that that sexual expression, be only sanctioned within a male female marital partnership. And so, you know, sideb is a little it's a little esoteric. You know, not everybody knows that lingo. Probably more often these these gay Christians would be known as traditionalists or conservatives or something like that. But it's that idea of wanting to...

...say, you know, I'm gay. I don't. I don't expect that I'm going to be healed from this overnight. I don't expect that some demon of homosexuality is going to be cast out of me. And yet at the same time I want to embrace some more traditional outlook on the sexual ethics piece of it. So I don't know. If that clarifies, feel free to come back to me and ask ask a follow question, but I think it does, I guess. I mean one question I would have is how, I guess, where would you come from, like the the biblical basis? Yeah, sexual relations. Yeah, because I think for me and my own process of coming out, you know, I sexual ethics was always some of you had to kind of figure out, sure, but I had. I guess for me I kind of tried to understand it as a heart of who I am and who I was made to be in God. But I'm just so curious. where. How did you come to your conclusion? Yeah, yeah, thank you for the question and I should maybe say I know these questions of Biblical interpretation are very complicated and very challenging. There are people who have spent, you know, years of their lives researching the original text and the original languages and trying to discover how these texts might speak to us and inform us and guide us today. So this is not an easy discussion. But I will say this. I think that there is a kind of there's a kind of progressive line on this that that worries me a bit. So I've heard people say, well, you know, if you want to find where the Bible condemns same sex sexual behavior, you go back to the book of Littlebiticus and right alongside you know that condemnation you find a prohibition against eating shellfish and, you know, wearing clothing that's made of two different kinds of thread. So why should we think that the the F picks on sexuality are still in force today when, at the same time we acknowledge that, you know, other parts of this law are not followed by people today? And I think my worry with that. I think I have a couple different worries. I think one of my worries is there is a there's a strong Christian tendency to want to look down our noses at the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and say, well, this is kind of an outdated book. You know, thank God that Jesus delivered us from the terrible law, and we sometimes don't think about how that sounds to the ears of a Jewish. I was going to say that kind of putting it that way kind of comes close to be sounding on a Semitic exactly. Or are, you know, super sessionists, like we've superseded the Jewish people and the Jewish scriptures, and so I'm worried about that. But the other thing I would say is it's not just limiticous, you know, it's also the New Testament. I've always been, you know, felt like I've really had to grapple with that passage in the gospels. It shows up in Matthew Nineteen and also in Mark Chapter Ten, Luke twenty two, I think it is where Jesus is asked about his views on marriage and divorce and he he could have have offered a new teaching. He could have said, well, you know, the law says this, but now I tell you this. But he doesn't do that. He goes back and he says, well, have you not read what was there in the beginning in Genesis, that God made them male and female, and what God has joined together, let no one put asunder, you know. And when you put that together with, you know, other things that we find in St Paul's letters where he he describes same sex relationships in the...

...book of Romans, it did a letter to the Romans in a way that I think is he's consciously echoing and furthering that that image from genesis that God made male and female, in his own image. And so, I mean, I'll be honest. I there's so much of me that would love to be convinced of a more a progressive you. That would allow me, I think, to experience more, not only more kind of ease in our society now, which I think is becoming increasingly progressive, but also simply more more kind of easy intimacy with someone you know, in in friendship, in a spousal relationship. And so I guess I I don't know apologize for my views, but I guess I would just say I'm still pretty compelled by the traditional picture and my question has become very much how does some one live within that without without embracing a negative view of oneself, without simply kind of shriveling up from loneliness? Like how do I live a celibate life in a way that is genuinely hospitable and life giving and and not condemning and not, you know, hectoring other people who take different views of it? And so, yeah, those are some initial thoughts on that. So how I think one of the things that I've always have heard about, when I've read different things about people who choose to be celibate is, and you probably have heard this too, that it's kind of like well, being self hating or right or limiting yourself or whatever right is. How do you deal with that or how do you respond to that? Yeah, I've never thought that that was a fair interpreted. Yeah, yeah, it's out there. Yeah, exactly, it is out there and I mean I think, I think, to be totally frank with you, there are times where I will say to my therapist, you know, I don't I don't want my theological convictions to be coming out of a place of kind of hidden or latent self hatred. And so we talked about that. It's an ongoing conversation and we're all so complex psychologically. I'm sure I don't even know fully the roots of my own beliefs. You know, it's it's always a process of selfdiscovery. But but I think it's been really important for me to understand that that if I believe that God is asking me to live without sex, I should not equate that with the idea that God is asking me to live without love. That would be a disastrous thing, I think. So so kind of broadening my idea of love beyond the idea of you know, having having intimacy with one particular partner who is my spouse, and this is where, you know, I found a lot of encouragement from the Christian tradition of founding monasteries and encouraging, you know, celibacy in community, where it's not this kind of isolated, lonely project of like self denial, but it's actually about belonging to a community and like giving your love a way to a not just one person but a, you know, a whole whole group of people. And you know, I think, I think honestly, Dennis, I think we see that in the life of Jesus. You know, all of the all of the evidence we have suggests that he was a celibate man. And and yet the figure that we meet in the gospels is someone who is so alive and he's compelling and he's he's in deep friendships with the people around him and he's awakening them to their best...

...life, you know. And so I I think for myself I'm very interested in trying to discover a celibate life that is not simply about withdrawal. It's not just about kind of saying no to something or opting out of something. It's actually about saying yes to something in a particularly costly way. So, yeah, do you see any I mean you talked about kind of the church fathers and mothers who kind of lived that way. Is there also any similarity with let's say, priest or nuns who have also yeah, or brothers who've also taken those vowels? But it's also within a community? I think so. I absolutely think so. And and part of the way I've thought about it is, you know, there have been some Christians that I've met WHO said nobody should be celibate unless they have like a burning sense that this is my call. And and I've never had that. I've always thought I would be a pretty good husband and I would love to love to have a partner. But but I think, I think what's helpful in thinking about priests is a lot of priests in the Catholic Church would tell you, you know, unless they felt like God was calling them to the priesthood, they probably wouldn't have chosen celibacy. In other words, the celibacy is there as a kind of I'm willing to sign up for this because I believe that God is calling me to this ministry. And I sort of feel like that for myself, like I wouldn't have chosen celibacy on my own, but I feel like God is called me to Jesus and I want to live out the life of Jesus, and so this is something that I'm trying to, you know, more fully inhabit and embrace and and live into. Even if if you, if you gave me the choice, I probably would have said no, that's that's not for me, you know. So, so I think I do. I do take a lot of encouragement from from, you know, these Catholic structures and and part of it is the whole idea that you can embrace things that you might not naturally choose for yourself because you're so inspired and convicted by the vision that is that's being offered. Yeah, does that make sense? Yeah, I think it does. And how, I guess the where there are two questions here is one, how do you think that side be Christians have been received by the wider HMM LGBTQ community? And then also, how are they being received by let's say a more traditionalists, yeah, conservative community as well? Yeah, it's a great question and it's you won't be surprised to hear. It's something I've had to wrestle with a lot because, you know, a lot of my writing has has been for the side be movement and trying to encourage it, and so I think, I think my progressive friends they're they're worry about it would be that those of us who are side be, we are trying to follow our consciences, we're trying to follow Jesus as we understand him, but our story gets used by other conservative Christians as a way to in a sense, shame other gay people and say, well, look, why can't you just do it the way these side be Christians are doing it? You know they're able to do it. Why aren't you able to do it? And so it becomes this, it becomes a way of almost kind of adding to the burden that side a people already feel in the church, and so I think that's been the worry. I mean, I have experienced a lot of wonderful encouragement and friendship with side a people. You know, I'm a priest in the episcopal church and there are a lot of side a folks in the Episcopal Church and they've been very kind to me. But I think that would be there. There hesitation about the side be project. They're worried about it now, I I'm sad to say, on the more conservative end, side be has often not been well received. There...

...is a a new kind of reaction to it. So in two thousand and eighteen there was a the first ever kind of side be conference. was called the revoice conference and it drew several several hundred attendees and St Louis Missouri, and there were a lot of conservative Evangelical Christians who were actually quite alarmed by it and and troubled by it and felt that this was the beginning of a slippery slope toward, you know, being affirming and and to be frank, it took me off guard a bit. I was not prepared for the just the sheer energy of the of the criticism and I'm still trying to kind of wrap my mind around what's exactly going on there. I mean I think, I think within conservative evangelicalism for several decades the clear message was that being gay is something that people choose to experience and that if if they were willing to be in the right healing prayer ministry, if they were willing to undergo the right therapeutic regimen and intervention, they could actually be delivered from their same sex attraction. And you know, I remember going to a conservative Christian college and there was a quote unquote, x gay speaker who stood up in Chapel and gave his testimony and he showed slides on the on the screen behind him, and the first lines were from his, you know, very promiscuous days, you know kind of cruising, and and then the final shot was of him with his wife and children. It was a very kind of domestic scene and he got a standing ovation and I remember sitting there in that audience feeling very alienated in that moment, like this is, this is I don't know what he's talking about, but it's certainly not been my experience of having my sexual orientation simply, you know, shift in that way. So so I think because of that heritage and and and because of the perceived threat to religious liberty that the gay movement, the Lgbtq Movement, represents for a lot of consertive Christians, I think there's been a very strong hesitancy to embrace the side be community and sign me movement. So it's that's an ongoing dialog, but it's it's certainly not without a lot of tension, I would say. Yeah, I think one of the things that I found interesting was and talking and reading an article by Greg Johnson, who is a Presbyterian Pastor, and that that had ramifications in his denomination. The right OPC cares been in church in America. That's right, and that it basically I don't know how farther you can go and what was already is concerning as a child, but they went there. That's right and and I was kind of amazed by that because it's like why, I don't you're right, it's nothing that to me is would be even be threatening, but yet it is right, right. Yeah, I mean, I'm sorry to say, it feels like a pretty fraught at complicated time right now in the evangelical world and Greg Johnson has kind of been at the heart of a lot of that that fire. Yeah, I I mean I don't I know a lot of these folks personally who have these objections and I don't simply want to say they're they're motivated by homophobia. And yet at the same time it strikes me that there's a real lack of appreciation for the actual experience of being gay and how hard it is still in two thousand and twenty one and a lot of evangelical churches to even acknowledge same sex desire and...

...to have the conversation that you know, I've been through these counseling services, I've been through these these intensive prayer sessions and my sexual orientation has not changed. And so I'm not convinced myself that we've actually truly grappled with that as a pastoral reality for a lot of people. And and I fear that a lot of the conservative opposition to things like Sideb and the revoice conference is is actually in certain ways repeating some of the old x gay emphasies and and expectations for people who are gay. Why do you think that there is, I don't know fear is the right word, but so much concerned about that. I mean I think one of the things, least coming from my side, would be that the concern here is is the act, the act, the sexual right. That's what bothering them, right, but that's not occurring here. Yeah, that's right, something to which movie means that it has to be more than just a sexual acts, something else is, is right, kind of propelling the sense of fear? Yeah, yes, and and I I probably don't have a good answer for that. I I I recognize what you're saying. It does seem that there is there is a perceived threat from even people who are saying, I'm not actually having sex, but I'm but I'm wanting to try to figure out a way to both, you know, not hate myself but also sort of recognize. Okay, what are the what are the good gifts that God wants to give me right here and now in the midst of my experience of my sexual orientation? And I mean so one of the things that I've pointed people to over the years is this really, really interesting letter from CS Lewis, who is kind of an icon to so many Christians, and he wrote this in the s. But there was there was a an American person who wrote to Lewis and said, I'm leading this Bible study in Ver Gina and I have a lot of gay people who are showing up to the Bible study. What should I think about sexuality? What should I tell them about what scripture says, what Jesus thinks about this? And Lewis writes back and says the main question that a homosexual person has to grapple with is the question of how is the glory of God going to be demonstrated in my experience? And he actually points to John Chapter Nine, which is the famous passage where Jesus disciples, you know, that they want to figure out why is this Guy Blind? What? What can we please pinpoint the origin of this and the causation of this? and Jesus Says No, that's not the point. The point is he can't change that. That's who he is. What matters is how the glory of God is going to be shown in his life. It's not how can we explain away his condition? And Lewis offers that as a kind of paradigm for those of us who are gay thinking. The question is not how can I escape from this, how can I pinpoint the origins of this or trace this to its, you know, root in my childhood psyche or whatever? The question is how does God want to show forth the glory of His love right here through my life? And I think a lot of side be people are actually saying we didn't get much help with that question in the whole x Gay Paradigm. That the the the question was always how do we get away from being gay? And now that we're acknowledging we are gay, the question we want to ask is, how can God show up right here and now in my life? How can God actually use this, you know, life that I find myself living? How can God appear in a way that increases my joy and increases love for the world and, the end, the beauty of the world? So, you know, I've sometimes thought of it in terms of Paul's Thorn in the...

...flesh and Second Grinthians, Chapter Twelve. You know, he asks God to remove it and the answers no, you know, I'm not going to remove it, he says. He says my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. In other words, God's glory and power can show up in the thing that we wish we could change about ourselves but is not being changed, and it can still be the place where we encounter the grace of God and show that to the world. So what do you think that side side be Christians bring to the LGBTQ table? It's a great what do you think that they bring that I think can really help the whole community understand faith, understand sexuality, all of that better. That's a wonderful question. Yeah, I don't know that I've ever been asked that before in quite that way. So I I maybe I should tell listeners you know, we didn't prep this interview in advance. We're sort of going off the off the fly here, which is great. I mean I so here's here's a here's a story. I have a friend who is gay and she kind of wrestled with what that meant for her life and she ended up embracing a traditional view of marriage. And she was talking with another friend of hers who told her. She said, I never really took Christianity very seriously until I saw you and I saw that you were willing to make a huge sacrifice, like not having sex, because you believed that this was true. And so I wonder if part of what we offer with our lives, even if we end up being wrong, you know, even if my convictions are wrong, we offer a way. We offer like a tangible sign that we trust in God's goodness to be enough for us. We trust in the resurrection of the Dad, we trust in the life of the world come so that even if in this life we feel like we're denying ourselves a really significant thing. We trust that God is going to to so be enough for us and so fill us with with his joy and peace and love, that that that we can, we can live out a joyful life even in the midst of self denial. So I wonder if maybe that's something we can offer. I wonder if maybe another thing is it's so this comes from my friend Eve Toushn. It Eve is. You're nodding, Denis. I know our listeners can't see you, but he was a hes a Roman Catholic writer, Wonderful Writer. She's a very openly gay but also celibate, and she has said maybe maybe something that we sighed be people can offer is just a kind of tangible reminder that. How does she put it? She basically says like there's there should be a world in which gay people feel that they have a choice about their future, that they aren't simply locked into one, one particular script. And she says the fact that we exist, you know, we can say like, you know, if you're if you're feeling hesitant or uncertain in your conscience about the way that you should go. You know, our culture kind of tells you the whole point of being human is like falling in love and finding a partner that you live happily ever after with. And if you don't embrace that, you kind of show with your life, with your body, that there are different ways of navigating life. So I don't know, maybe those could be ways that we would we would benefit the wider lgbt community. HMM. Yeah, I've been familiar with eve testing that. I've read some of her writings for a long time and just found her fascinating. He's a great writer. Yeah, yeah, and I think she was on the first talked about the...

...fact that, you know, she and I think she has kind of a partner which she is with, but at least at that time when she's, yeah, writing, but in the either that congregation or wherever she was, there was still tension, even though it was a celibate relationship, it was still that that kind of sense of people being bothered by that, and so I think that's for for me I learned this isn't a way of trying to, you know, take the easy route, because I think that's what some people in the lgbt heure knew would say. Sure, but that you're dealing with a lot of the same kind of homophobia that absoluteone else is dealing with. Absolutely yeah, yeah, I don't know about I don't recall eve talking about a cello partner, but I know what I know what you're referring to. I mean it's it's been a real thing in my life. Like I think I kind of naively earlier in life thought that well, look, I'm side be so I'm going to get I'm going to get a lot of encouragement from my fellow, you know, traditionalists or Conservative Christians. That has not been the case. You know, I've come under a lot of suspicion and had to navigate a lot of, well, at the at minimum, misgivings that my that my fellow Christians have had. But sometimes it's been a lot stronger than that. HMM, I'm kind of garious about the role of Biblical interpretation here. Kind of been talking about your story. It seems like you did a lot of really studying and getting deep into the scriptures to understand that. Just strangely, I did that myself, is to do that kind of looking into what scripture is saying. Yeah, and so I guess I'm kind of curious. Where do you think Biblical interpretation? What is its role? And it deals with sexuality, because I think especially even within the church, we talk a lot about we may talk about sexuality, but then we don't talk about the groundings are. Yeah, Biblical interpretation. What is what we feel God's Word is telling us? Yeah, and we also don't talk about what happens when we have different interpretations. Right, right, exactly. Yeah, I mean this is something that I feel is very, very important. I work as a scripture scholar and teacher myself. I teach it Western seminarian Michigan in the New Testament Department. At the same time, I would say that my I feel like my views have probably become more Catholic in the sense that I don't think it's up to the individual believer, just kind of rivally experiencing the the reality of the Holy Spirit, to come up with their own interpretation. I think Biblical interpretation is supposed to be a community project. We're supposed to do it, you know, with our fellow believers, and so you know, I think, I think if you asked me, you know it. Is there a scenario where you could see the church meeting in council together, however, that light look and coming to a fuller or a different understanding of scripture on these things. I could imagine that. I think what I'm what I'm more hesitant about, is that, you know, me and my Bible could figure out a new way of thinking about all this that has never been come up with, you know, in two thousand years of the Church's life. So I think that that dimension of Reading and community is very vital for me and how I think about these things. One of my favorite theologians named Kate Zander Rager, at Virginia seminary. She talks about how we have barely begun as a church to actually have a sustained conversation with each other...

...about scripture and sexuality. You know, I mean we've been doing it for several decades, but several decades in the in the time of the church, is like nothing, right. Yeah, it's like a blink of an op in the other so she she I was at a conference where she gave a presentation couple years ago and she basically said we need a new kind of Ecumenical Church conversation about sexuality. We need the very best scholars and preachers and and, you know, worship experts and and liturgists and all these things to come together and, you know, seek the mind of Christ about these things, and so that resonates with me. I mean I you're right that I've done a lot of study of scripture and I do, I do believe that there is a kind of solid tradition of what Christianity has understood about sexuality, that is, there's a strong continuity running right through the religion, you know, from the very earliest days. So I do have that conviction. But I also want to say I could be wrong and it could be that we know, as we continue listening to one another and praying together and talking with one another, the expectation that we have is that the Holy Spirit might open up new perspectives that none of us have thought of before, whether we identify as, quote unquote, conservatives or progressives. So where do you see yourself kind of helping the church in the coming years? It's easy, I think, for us to think that this is an issue that has been settled, but right in certain parts the church it has not been settled. That's right. That's right. Still a lot of work to be done. That's right. Where do you see yourself kind of in that struggle? Yeah, well, so the book that I'm working on right now is kind of me grappling with an answer to that question. So I've written two books in my early adulthood about the first one was kind of a theological memoir about being gay and Christian, and then the second one was trying to kind of wave the banner of friendship and say that friendship is this very neglected, kind of shallow relationship for a lot of us, but it could be much more robust and significant, and I feel that my next project is really asking the question about so what? What about the very terms of the debate as we've set them up so far? So at least in my wing of the church, the debate has largely been between people who understand themselves to be affirming and those who understand themselves to be not affirming, and I'm kind of wanting to take a step back and say let's look at that category of affirming. What. Why? Why that word, and is that actually the right word? I mean, if the Gospel is true, my understanding of the Gospel is that Jesus, you know, he holds his arms wide open on the cross and he says, anyone and everyone, the whole world is the object of my love. I want to I want to give my life away for every single human being. And what that makes possible is for every one of us to say, you know what, I am radically in need of that. I'm no better off than the person standing next to me in the Pew. I am equally as fallen and broken and in need of Jesus as everybody else is. And so what that means is that I'm not expecting when I come to church, I'm not expecting simply to be affirmed and who I am. I'm expecting to be told that in and of myself, I am lost, I am I am broken, I am far from God, but by God's mercy in Jesus, I am drawn near, I am embraced, I am welcomed, and so I would like us to have a different sort of conversation with each other. I I would prefer that it not be framed as are you affirming or not...

...affirming? But how? How are we welcoming people into the life of transformation and discipleship that Jesus calls all of us into? So I feel like that would create the context for a much healthier debate. I'm a CH healthier conversation with each other. We may not all agree at the end of the day, but if we could reframe the question so it's not about affirmation, it's much more about transformation. How is God calling us to be transformed in our sexuality so that we, you know, gradually, over the course of a lifetime, begin to unlearned some of the habits of selfishness and and the ways that were curved in on one another? How how do we actually learn to give, to give love and receive love in a way that is life giving and honoring to God and, you know, participating in the power of the Holy Spirit? So that's kind of my my project. I've been working on a book on this for a long time and I would like to think that I will finish it sometimes soon. But yeah, that's that's my hope for the church. And it seems like a lot of this really comes down to grace. Yes, that we don't know everything, yes that we shouldn't pretend that we know everything, but when we feel that we have prayed a lot, thought a lot about something and come to where we feel God is calling us that, even if that's wrong. There is still grace. Yes, doesn't say well, you pick the wrong choice and yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. And I think we see that in the Old Testament, don't we? That a lot of people who god enters into intimate relationship with they do really bad things and they get it wrong and they they wander off, and yet God is continually there to draw them back and too, to to show them mercy. M Yeah, I think one of the things that for me when I came out was really understanding, you know, because I think there was always a lot of struggle of well, does the Bible really say this? Is this okay? Yeah, I'm could be sending and I said, you know, I could be wrong. Yeah, I very well could be wrong. Yeah, but I also believed strongly in a God that was graceful. Yeah, that, yeah, it wasn't a God that was just going to sit there and keep tab of what you're Dourn, right or wrong. Sure that at the bottom all of this is grace and that you know, we're not God. All right, I can do is try to do follow God the best way that we can. Right. Well, I think that's I think you're right and I think I would say the same thing. I could be wrong. I'm trying to follow scripture by the best of my lights, but but I think we need to acknowledge our fallibility and our frailty as human beings and just cast ourselves on God's mercy over and over and we know that in Jesus Christ, God is merciful to everyone who calls out to him. So well, I think one final question as we wrap up is if there's someone out there, let's say, listening, that might be also struggling with their sexuality, maybe in a place where you were at one time, what would you say to them? I was at a really low point, Gosh, over probably over fifteen years ago now. I had fallen in love with my best friend, who is straight, and he ended up starting to date a woman and it was just a truly agonizing experience, lacerating experience, and I remember writing to someone who I didn't I didn't really know him all that well, but he just seemed like a safe person to talk with and I remember he wrote back an email and he didn't answer all my questions. He didn't give a magic solution to the whole dilemma. He just said West, you know, I would encourage you as much as you possibly can. Look to Jesus, because Jesus is God's face turned toward you in love.

Jesus is there in his life and death and resurrection to show us that God is radically for us and, I think, for any listener who is feeling worthless or rejected or confused or beyond repair. God is out to find people exactly like you. And there's a wonderful hymn where it says he came not to call the righteous but sinners. It's echoing the words of Jesus, but not the righteous, not the righteous, sinners he came to save. So if you find yourself at the end of your rope, you're exactly where Jesus wants to find you and save you and show you his love. I think that is a great way to end this. So thank you, West. This has been a great conversation. I hope that we can do this again sometime again soon. Thank you, Dennis. I really appreciate the honor of the invitation. Then, and God bless all right, take care. If you're a side, a Christian like I am, it's tempting to think of our side be Christians like West as well not being really accepting of their sexuality, being ashamed or in denial of who they are. I don't think that that's the right way to look at this. Now I've studied scripture and I've listened to what God was saying in my life, just as West did. The only thing that's different is that we came to different conclusions. But I've learned from my damn conversation with West and from reading articles of side be Christians is they thought, they have thought long and hard and they have sought to hear God's voice in the matter, and none of it sounds like denial or shame. This is not the road that I would choose, but I think it is a way of being an LGBTQ Christian in the world and I think that I need to at least respect it. It's also important to know that side be Christians don't face an easier life because they choose celibacy. They face discrimination, especially within conservative denominations, just like side a people do. My own belief is that those of us who are side a Christians need to at least listen to our side be sisters and brothers. We're not going to agree with them but I don't think that that's the point. The point is to listen, to appreciate where they're coming from, to understand their journey, and I'd hope that side be Christians would do the same with us. For our side, a Christians, when we come together, we come and believe in something. We believe in something that is the same, and that is that we believe that everyone is welcome at Christ table and we believe that at Christ table we can meet, we can share our lives and support each other in this struggle to be recognized as children of God. So I want to...

...thank West for chatting with me today and I want to thank you for listening. Please consider leaving a rating or review on your podcast APP, because when you do that it makes the kind of works with the Algorithms. It makes it easier for people to find the PODCAST. Also, if you like to listen to podcasts on Youtube, you can go to our youtube page. The link is in the show notes and I would really appreciate both of those. If you could either leave a rating or review on your podcast APP or subscribe on Youtube, it would mean a lot. So that is it for this episode of en route journeys in faith and modern life. I'M gonna centers your host Take Care, God speed and I'll see you soon.

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